As all of you surely know—primarily because you all remember every Channel 5 news broadcast in the greater St. Louis region between the years of 1993 and 1998—I was a bit of a local celebrity during my childhood. It all started innocuously enough: a KSDK camera crew showed up at my soccer camp and asked to film a few shots of kids kicking around soccer balls and flashing the stations trademark slogan, a hand full of five fingers followed by the same hand slimmed down to one, and I, of course, obliged.
I started to forget this a few weeks later as I realized that nothing good lasts forever. Unfortunately my celebrity, and the free slurpees that came with it, began to fade. Unfortunately my 15-minutes of fame ran its course. Unfortunately the “hang out and heroin” time I scheduled every day with Todd Bridges became sadder and sadder as less and less people started to judge us for being famous dudes who were chilling on the bottom of the Chuck E Cheese ball pit, wearing diapers and getting high as fuck. Unfortunately I became worthless. I became obsolete. I became a nobody. Unfortunately I hit rock bottom as a 8-year-old.
Ever since that cold, tormented time in my life, I have been waiting for a day where I could rebound, where I could once again rise up from the basement of my existence and become somebody important again. That day happened a few weeks ago after I attended a hearing on the potential funding for a new Riverfront football stadium hosted by the St. Louis Board of Alderman—this is not a political blog so I won’t go into too much more detail on my opinion concerning the stadium here other than to say that if you are against this project then you can hit me on Twitter, Facebook, or the neighborhood watch app Next Door where I will very obviously prove how much smarter I am than you to everyone else on the Interwebs—and once again had my likeness captured and televised by News Channel 5. This brought me a new round of celebrity. This delivered me a second period of fame. This made me a regional dignitary once more.
The only difference is that I am an adult now. The only difference is that this time I will use fame instead of letting it use me. The only difference is that I am going into this round of celebrity ready for the trials and tribulations of noteworthiness. The only difference is dear readers that, after reading this blog, you will be too.
The 6 Stages of Adult Fame
Stage 1: Unrelenting Paparazzi-This past Saturday, exactly one week to the day that I made a speech equivalent to the Gettysburg Address or that time Allen Iverson unequivocally proved that hard work and commitment are a waste of time, I was at a Blues game enjoying some whiskey and blatantly farting on every Red Wing’s fan that walked by me in the concourse when I happened to turn my head around and notice the local news reporter who had produced and narrated the very segment on KSDK that had allowed me to rise to prominence. “Oh,” I said, meeting him square in the eyes. “It’s you…”
“Yes…” the newsmen said, scanning my face and wondering how he recognized me. The before picture in a ProActiv ad perhaps. From my casting as the understudy for the role of Sloth in the Lafayette Square Community Theater’s production of The Goonies maybe. As the dude he caught picking his nose and wiping his boogers on the bottom of his table at a local Lion’s Choice? No doubt. “How are you?”
“Good,” I replied, and proceeded to ask the reporter what he was doing here, suspiciously present and right behind me in a building that had only 20,000 spectators in it. I mean what are the odds right? Of course the newsmen gave all the right answers, he’s just here to watch the game, he doesn’t work 24 hours/day, he has a son who is a big hockey fan and more important to his life than I am, yada yada yada, but we all knew what his main objective was. That’s why I allowed the guy to film a video of me on my iPhone centering on my opinion that each and every Red Wing’s fans in St. Louis deserved to have their trousers pulled down to the floor whenever they are standing at a urinal in this city. That interview didn’t make it on the news, but I know that’s just because the liberal media is biased against truth tellers. Boom. Roasted CNN.
Stage 2: People Actually Start to Care About You-On the evening after my face appeared on the news, at the exact moment where I began assembling my own Wikipedia page (overcome steep obstacles during my childhood…never flew first class until I was 13), I was riding in an Uber when my phone began to ring. Like actually ring. Not a text. Not an email. Not somehow hitting me up about a rabid dog roaming the alleyway on the neighborhood watch app Nextdoor. But a real-life, honest to God phone call. I picked up, not sure how these things worked anymore. Would there still be someone’s voice on the other end? “Hello,” I said, “it’s 2015 now…”
“Hello, Zachary this is your mother,” were the words I heard emanating from my 6th generation Dice With Buddies playing machine. “I saw you on the news. And I just wanted you to know that, for the first time since you wore that pair of Old Navy overalls in public to the 1998 Men’s Basketball Regional Final and we abandoned all hope of you not sucking, your father and I are proud of you.”
WOW PRIDE!! I felt a lot of emotions from my parents. Disappointment. Disgust. Dispirit. Disenfranchisement that one time when I prevented my mother from voting in the election for City Comptroller because I had the chicken pocks on a random Tuesday and she didn’t have a black enough heart to leave me alone to basically die of leprosy while she went to the polls. A lot of other alliterative things. But pride? I had never earned my parents pride before. And, let me tell you, it was awesome. This must be what Carlton felt every day on the set of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Stage 3: The Weight of Expectations-There’s a certain serenity in being able to wander the city, strolling down the street and stealing enough pennies out of the fountain on Park Avenue to buy yourself 9 McChickens at the Whack Arnold’s on Jefferson unanimously, unconfronted, unburdened. No one knows who you are. No one cares who you are. No one is snapping a Vine of you falling into the frigid water in the dead of November. Fat guys falling into public fountain videos? Those things are a dime a dozen.
Fat icons falling into a public fountain videos, on the other hand, those things are worth their weight in gold. The fact I am trying to illustrate here is that once you become famous, once you become known, once you become an entity, people are looking to take advantage of you. A picture with you outside the Jiffy Lube. An autograph you sign on a Hooters cocktail napkin. An invitation to the Wii Bowling Party that they only know about because they are constantly staring through your window as you play Wii. It never stops. It never ends. It crushes you completely, leveling your spirit and your soul.
Once you become acclaimed, it becomes nearly impossible to live up to the standards that the outside world has set for you. Just ask Johnny Manziel who got benched by the Cleveland Browns—the Cleveland Fucking Browns—for doing exactly what every 25-year-old person who doesn’t suck would do if they had the means to live the kind of life that he can live. Or ask me. Because some dude just took a SnapChat of me grabbing a donut out of a trash can on Wash Ave, and acted like it was a big deal. Oh, like you're too good to eat a garbage long john homeless guy. How'd you even get a smart phone in the first place?
Stage 4: The Low Point-The sad truth is that, as I described earlier, the notoriety inevitably fades. It dims. It dissolves. It goes away. One day you wake up and you text Jaden Smith “what a night last night home boy!” The next you wake up with a text from Jaden Smith reading “Sorry bro, have to cancel our trip to the petting zoo this afternoon…also I’m busy for the next 87 days.”
The question is how do you deal with it? I, for one, have many vices. Booze. The occasional hit of PCP with Sunday night dinner. Enough Popeye’s chicken to keep the ghost of William Howard Taft satiated. These are the things I turn to when I’m sober. These are the things I turn to when life is good.
Where do you go when life is bad? What do you start rocking once no one cares about you anymore? I don’t know. The lowest point of my life, outside of my initial fall from grace that I didn't really describe very well above (which honestly wasn't all that traumatizing), came when I dookied in my pants on my second, and last, bike ride as a 14-year-old. The second lowest point of my life is the first 14-years of my existence where I was unable to ride a bike. I dealt with the first valley by throwing away my shorts and playing MLB ’02 on my Playstation for 19 consecutive hours. I dealt with the second one by drinking a butt-load of chocolate milk for 5,000 straight days and acting like bikes were for poor people. Neither one is a viable option here. So upping the PCP or Popeye’s dosage seem like the only logical choices.
Stage 5: Celebrity Sex Tape Leak-I’m not sure, but I’m very sure, that I have never performed any sort of sexual act on videotape. I’m not sure, but I’m 100% positive, that I am now, and always will be, incapable of performing any sort of visually attractive sexual act on videotape. But if the public is demanding a video of me masturbating to be leaked onto the Internet and shown on TMZ’s new Fox News Program, TMZ Shows People Who Voted for Obama Masturbating, in order for me to remain famous, then that is what they will get. Believe you me. That is exactly what I am going to give them.
Stage 6: Goin’ Out In a Blaze of Glory-At this point it’s all over. The game has ended. The jig is up. No one cares anymore. You aren’t even the guy who was on the news one time. You are now just the guy with bad dandruff who works a regular job and has a regular life other than that masturbation tape you made that has gotten 119 views on YouPorn. There is nothing special about you. Your existence means jack shit.
How can you get it all back? How can you become worthwhile again? What can you do to make your life matter? You can go out on your own terms. You can end it in a way that will make sure that everyone on the face of the Earth knows exactly who you are.
You can get in your Volvo and drive it to one end of a cliff with Geena Davis, who no one cares about anymore either, riding shotgun as the police chase you for some reason that is neither important or shared with the audience. You can longingly look into each other’s eyes and swap one last wet, sloppy kiss on the lips. You can hit the gas as Harvey Keitel clumsily gives chase, imploring you to stop, telling you with his heart that everything is going to be OK. You and Geena Davis can lock hands as you both stare straight ahead, unafraid of whatever it is that is going to happen next. You can let the convertible go, holding onto the gas as the machine soars through the air and the screen freezes and turns to white.
You can die, but die in a way that people will remember. That is what Thelma and Louise, whoever they are, did. That’s what I will do too. Once the 15 minutes is up the 15 minutes is up. At that point, there will be nothing else to live for. At that point all you can do is fall. I fell once. I am not doing it again. So, all I can do now, is savor the fame before it ends.
It will be over when it's over. Until then, all I can do is enjoy the ride.